Friday, April 1, 2011

Helping Evangelicals with Continuing Revelation


*In beginning work on a manuscript I thought it best to jot down my ideas here and we could flesh them out together. I’m especially interested in interactions you’ve had with protestants in discussing continuing revelation. What questions have you found hard to answer? Here are my thoughts…..

If you’ve ever tried to share the gospel with a conservative evangelical, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “There is no new revelation.” or something similar. While it may be hard for Latter-Day Saints to grasp at times, the Bible being the sole and final authority lies deep in the heart of many sincere Christians who love their God and serve His Son diligently. I was one of them, so I know. Sola Scriptura was one of the cornerstones of our faith beginning with the protestant reformation.

When I first began looking into Mormonism in order to “save a friend from hell” I thought it would be simple to show him the error of his ways. All I had to do was prove in Scripture the canon was closed and that would settle it. If the canon had already closed, there is no way the Book of Mormon could be true. He would see that Joseph Smith was a false prophet. That would be the first step toward redemption.

I started by looking for the passage that taught the canon was closed. I couldn’t find it anywhere. My next idea came in the form of calling one of my pastors and explaining my dilemma. I asked him to help me understand why we believe the canon is closed, so I could rescue my friend. First, he warned me to be careful because my friend was probably having a similar conversation about converting me with the leadership of his church. I told him I’d be offended if he weren’t. He continued by telling me that there was not anything in Scripture that definitively showed the canon was closed. I found that surprising. Why then is it preached so decisively from the pulpit? The answer he gave me was church tradition.

Personally, as a conservative evangelical myself, I didn’t find that answer convincing. The whole protestant reformation fought against church tradition as an authority. That was not what I was trained to put my faith in. I had always been taught to consider the Scriptures as the final authority. Finding his answer unsatisfying I decided to turn again to the Scriptures for my answers. In reality, that is how you will best help evangelicals to understand our faith as well. Scriptures alone will not convince them. That takes the Spirit. But in their mind, they’ll need the Scriptures. They’ll be more likely to hear the Spirit where there is no fear. They have no fear of the Bible.

An oft quoted passage in evangelical circles is found in Revelation that warns not to add or take away from this book. Many unpleasant experiences are promised to the offender. That passage never bothered me. Though many Christians take the phrase “this book” to mean the Bible, I realized that passage is only referring to the book of Revelation itself. To help someone else understand that, you could point out that Deuteronomy 4:2 has a similar injunction, but the church did not stop the canon after the Pentateuch. Neither did the Savior because he quoted from several post Pentateuch passages as authoritative.

Another item to point out in the same arena is that Revelation was NOT the last book of the Bible to be penned. Several were written after Revelation including James, Jude, and 2 Peter. But, that is not the only reason to believe in continuing revelation. There is a Scripture chain you can give them to read, ponder, and pray about. First Hebrews 13:8 tells us that “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” If that is so, He is willing to work with His children consistently.

The second link of the chain can be found in Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord God doeth nothing until He reveals His secret unto His servants the prophets.” There are some people who will say that this particular verse was in the Old Covenant and that we are living in the New Covenant, therefore it is invalid. It is true that we are under a new covenant, but it is the same God. They may counter that God is the same, but His methods are not. In that case you could give them 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things: hold fast that which is good." This is a New Covenant passage. Without further scripture to negate it, it still stands. This command also helped alleviate some of the guilt I felt in examining other beliefs to begin with. I could do it, because the Lord said I could.

In combination, these verses pricked my heart. They helped me realize there was at least the possibility of new revelation. Whether that came in the form of Mormonism or not, well…let’s just say the jury was still out on that one. Prayerfully, as you testify of the gospel with your protestant friends their hearts will be pricked as well. I know I’m grateful to learn all that is available to me through the restoration.


Amber said...

I have been discussing the gospel with a reformed Baptist lady online. This is one area she was concerned about. I finally looked up in the topical guide for references to lost scriptures and there are a lot. It got me also thinking about the books of Adam and Noah and Melchizedek. So it is obvious there have to be more scripture than just the Bible. She hasn't responded to that point yet.

The other point she did respond to was that of being saved by grace or by works. I wasn't sure what the big deal was until we went back and forth a couple times and she sent me the name of her creed and I read it. There seems to be a sense of predestination or being chosen by Christ for salvation which is only to be with Him and glorify Him. I was surprised at the Calvinistic fatalism that was expressed in the creed. Being a Mormon my entire life, I didn't appreciate the understanding I have.

Is the Calvinistic thought prevalent in most the evangelical sects? It has been very educational to correspond with her. I have learned from reading your story also. It is fascinating. I wish I was better at sharing the good news, but I'm glad to understand where people are coming from better.

The scriptures you referenced may help me in the future. Thanks!

Annmarie Worthington said...

Hi, Amber. While there are many Calvinists (and I was one), they are not the majority of protestants, though their numbers are growing (especially among baptists). You have discerned correctly that they believe in predestination. I have thought of so many other Scriptures since I wrote that post. When I have time, I'll make an amended post including everything.

Amber said...

You'll have to do another post on predestination. Is that an area you had trouble with when researching the church, and how did you reconcile it?

Kimberly said...

Wow! Great post, very helpful. Thanks!